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How McLaren got back to the top

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Andrew Benson | 18:46 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

Amid the widespread astonishment at how Fernando Alonso has found himself leading the world championship after two races despite driving the worst car Ferrari have produced for nearly 20 years, it has been somewhat overlooked that McLaren are topping the constructors' championship.

Victory for Jenson Button in Australia, two third places for Lewis Hamilton and two front row lock-outs have demonstrated that the MP4-27 is not only the best-looking car on the grid, it is also the fastest.

This is quite a turnaround from the last three years, when McLaren have been off the pace at the start of the season, putting their title challenge on the back foot before it had started.

The man responsible for this turnaround is McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe, who is in charge of the team's design and engineering.

A likeable, down-to-earth character, Lowe says "relief" is the first emotion he feels as a result of this impressive achievement after three years of struggling in vain to keep up with Red Bull.

He says: "There is a lot of pressure - people going around saying what you need to do is deliver a car that is quickest at the first race, as though we hadn't thought of that, you know?

"You go and estimate what you think that involves with no certain knowledge and then you go and try to deliver it. It's tough."

McLaren driver Jenson Button tackles a rain-swept Malaysian Grand Prix. Photo: Getty

Ask Lowe how McLaren have ended up with the fastest car at the start of a season for the first time in four years, and he'll tell you there is no "magic".

In reality, there are several factors behind McLaren's ability to leapfrog Red Bull this year and stay ahead of everyone else.

McLaren had a successful winter that was not affected by reliability problems with the car, as had been the case in 2011. That meant they could spend pre-season perfecting what they had rather than, as Lowe puts it, "fighting fires".

Equally, Red Bull appear to have been more badly affected than most other teams by the banning of exhaust-blown diffusers, last year's must-have technology, which the world champions are widely believed to have exploited more effectively than any other team.

For McLaren, starting 2012 with the fastest car is the culmination of a three-year battle to return to the top that began with the disaster of 2009, when they started the season more than two seconds off the pace.

That was the result of Hamilton's intense title battle with Ferrari's Felipe Massa in 2008 - which deflected resource away from both team's new cars - as well as the introduction of the biggest regulation change for 25 years.

McLaren recovered well in 2009 to win a couple of races later in the season, once they had adopted the 'double diffuser' that caused controversy at the start of the year and led to Brawn's championship win.

In 2010 they moved forward, but were still only third fastest behind Red Bull and Ferrari; and in 2011 they leapfrogged Ferrari but were still behind Red Bull.

At the same time, there was a re-organisation of the technical department undertaken in 2010-11, which has taken time to settle down.

"We came out (in 2011) pretty much in the same place we had been at the end of 2010," Lowe says. "So Red Bull had made decent progress over the winter and so had we.

"You have got to do not only what your competitors have done over the winter but then a bit more and then some to generate a lead over them.

"But that is difficult when there aren't fundamental changes in the rules for the car.

"You'd need Red Bull to go on holiday for a month, and then if you were working to the same general output you'd catch them up, but obviously they don't do that so you've just got to push it."

The same thoughts were going through the minds of the bosses at Ferrari. But whereas Maranello responded by undertaking a major change in design philosophy - which has backfired, notwithstanding Alonso's win on Sunday - McLaren realised this would be a mistake.

"In general you are going to be reluctant to say: 'I need to tear this up'," Lowe says.

"Here and there we were quicker than a Red Bull and we were certainly close to them when we weren't.

"The car performance at that point, given also there is not a big regulation change, is a consequence of a great deal of hard work. So it's quite rash to throw that away in too many areas rather than just build on it and iterate further and further.

"That doesn't mean you're not constantly looking for new ideas and trying to make them work. (But) you have to make very sure that whatever change you make is going to be better."

Lowe's contention that there has been no miracle at McLaren, just good, solid development work, is backed up by the fact that other teams have clearly made even more progress compared to Red Bull than they have - such as Lotus and Williams.

In pointing this out, Lowe betrays the natural caution of the F1 engineer - an approach that is understandable when, as Malaysia proved, even having the outright fastest car is no guarantee you will win the race.

Hamilton stepped down from the bottom step of the podium on Sunday to tell the waiting media he needed to find more race pace to capitalise on his strong qualifying form.

Lowe's "new challenge", it seems, has already arrived.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    To be fair ferrari would not have got the top spot had it not been raining sunday.
    Mclaren weekness last race was not the car but the pitstops.

  • Comment number 2.

    "it has been somewhat overlooked that McLaren are topping the constructors' championship."

    It has'nt been overlooked at all, its just that nobody is losing their knickers over it because with 2 races gone, you'd rightfully be called nuts to draw any conclusions.

    Would you be getting this excited if your football team was at the top of its division after the first month? It's a long old season. No doubt after Red Bull have won a few, we'll get the "Has McLarens short lived domination come to an end?" blogs, and woe betide if McLaren were to win the next race after that, you BBC lot wouldnt know whether you were coming or going. I sometimes think you even confuse yourself as to what your talking about, or which way your going to flop next.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ref Gary Anderson's insightful article that Andrew published on here. The McLaren is very stiff and therefore unable to generate heat in the tyres so well in the wet when there is less force exerted on them. His next challenge is indeed here if we can reasonably expect wet races at Spa, Silverstone, Montreal, Germany, China possibly Korea.

    #2 Riggadon, the opening to this blog is intended to set the scene for McLaren's successful start in comparison to previous years. For man points read Gary Anderson's blog, but the beeb's coverage has to account for all readers regardless of their F1 insight.

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with post 2, my team, Wolves were top after 2 games (I have a picture to prove it) and now look where they are - rock bottom. I know McLaren are not going to fall off like that as they are a definite challenger but there have been 2 GP's so far and one in terrible conditions so there are limited conclusions to be drawn.

    I personally hope that McLaren can stay top of the pile for a good few races but also to have some competitive edge that was missing at times from last year which made parts of the season boring, you could almost write the headline about Vettel before the qualifying or race had been started.

  • Comment number 6.

    Kimi summed it up best in his post race interview, after 2 races, 1 being wet, you don't have a clear picture of where everyone is on race pace.
    At least the qualifying sessions have been dry and 'some form' has begun to emerge already.

    Can see it being another Mclaren front row lock out in China, and you can see the Mercs going well again. Lotus appear to have the pace to get both cars into Q3 and Alonso will drag his car kicking and screaming into Q3. The Red Bulls still have the pace to be comfortably inside the top ten, from then on, its so close in the midfield + Massa anyone of them can sneak in there.

  • Comment number 7.

    Is it just me or is Andrew criticizing Lewis again???
    Ofc. he wants the car to improve! That's the only way to win a championship.

    Don't put your drivers in this light..

  • Comment number 8.

    I delighted that the great-looking McLaren is a fast car as it would be a shame if something that pretty was a dog like the Ferrari. But I hope that the Woking team has not used all its smarts developing the thing only to throw away the advantage with some poor tactical decisions and some complacent driving. Great insight from yer man Anderson and I thought the BBC post race forum was much better than Sky’s tedious offering. DC seems to be much more relaxed on air now without the shadow of his friend and ‘award-winning commentator’ Martin Brundle hanging over him.

  • Comment number 9.

    AM I THE ONLY ONE SEEING THIS OR WHAT? WHY IS AFRICA THE ONLY CONTINENT WITHOUT AN F1 TRACK? DID LEWIS HAMILTON`S WIN IN 2008 UNDER IGNITE AN AFRICAN INTEREST IN THE SPORT? THE ALONSOS AND VETTELS OF THIS WORLD NEED TO BE SINKING IN THE AFRICAN BREEZE ON AN ANNUAL BASIS.

  • Comment number 10.

    IS VETTEL LOSING STEAM? IT WAS MCLAREN IN MELBOURNE AND NOW FERRARI IN KUALA LUMPER. WHEN WILL RED BULL GET OFF THE PACE?

  • Comment number 11.

    THE TRIBUTE TO SIMONCELLI WAS TOUCHING EVEN IF IT WILL BE MORE TELLING BY THE MOTOGP CREW RATHER THAN F1 IN SEPANG.SPORTS REALLY NEEDS TO RALLY ROUND EACH OTHER IN THESE TRYING TIMES.HOPE NO ONE IN F1 HAS FORGOTTEN ROBERT KUBICA?

  • Comment number 12.

    I beg to differ with the "Mclaren have the outright fastest car". They have marginally the best qualifying package, but with arguably the 2 best drivers (Alonso aside). Mark Webber I believe has set the fastest lap's in both races if I'm not mistaken?? (please correct me if I'm wrong I cant be bothered to look it up).
    I think it is interesting how much Red Bull have suffered with the lack of the exhaust blown diffuser. I dont think so much it is the car that is considerbaly weaker, more the 2 drivers can't handle the car as well as the better drivers. I always wandered what it would be like to see Vettel having to try and "drive" an F1 car, as opposed to being practically glued to the track by a fantastic machine. Well we are getting our answers - struggles in qualifying and then can't make up many places in the race.
    Interesting season ahead. :)

  • Comment number 13.

    At 9.

    I thought Kylami was in Africa? It might not be up to current F1 standards though.

  • Comment number 14.

    What I would say about McLaren is so far so good. It's true that the pit stops caused Hamilton to lose position, but more importantly he did not have the race pace to catch either the Sauber or the Ferrari when it mattered. Clearly McLaren still have work to do. They also need to be more clever with regard to pit stop timing. It also appears that Button's car is faster in the race than Hamilton's so perhaps things aren't so evenhanded within as they outwardly say they are. There's no doubt that Hamilton is the faster driver, but Button just seems to get the better support currently. That all said McLaren need another good step forward to stay in front as I suspect Red Bull will not be long in improving their car. - Look how they improved during 2010 as Brawn after a fantastic start stalled mid season.

  • Comment number 15.

    Wonderful piece squire. Very well written.

  • Comment number 16.

    McLaren have a mirror of the Red Bull last year and should be doing what Vettel did after qualifying on pole and that was turn the wick up, clear the DRS gap and cruise along happily until the end of the race letting your competitors trip over each other, just as Jenson did in Oz. Incidentally I think that allowing teams a ‘double shuffle’ tyre change needs to be looked at seriously as having the second car kerb-crawling down the pit lane allows too much opportunity to ruin another drivers race.

  • Comment number 17.

    Personally think the criticism of the blog due to being "too early to comment" is a tad harsh, seeing as the thrust of the argument is that at least this year McLarens are on the pace AT THE START.
    That said, the arguments to back it up are tediously obvious, verging on banal.

    Would take this opportunity to comment on the BBC radio coverage. It was awful!
    Never have I heard so many sentences were the subject matter at the start is so utterly lost long before the end!
    Every run down of places drifted into a completely different topic.
    Every mention of the "charging" whoever was never backed up with any stats as to how fast they were catching up on the guy in front.
    Button was the most prevalent "charger", I'm sure he must have actually been a lap up on everyone, including Alonso, and it only appeared that he was running around in the middle of the pack.
    Am only thankful that we didn't have to listen to the "straightaways"!

  • Comment number 18.

    Sorry, .... "sentences WHERE the subject matter"

  • Comment number 19.

    Im loving this start to the season, I guess what most of us all wanted... that being a change from the dominance of one team/one driver.
    It is refreshing to see differing names scoring points and great teams like williams, renault(lotus sponsored) & of course mcclaren doing well.
    I don't care for who really wins in the end as long as it is fair & fun, is that not what it is all about.... certainly as long as it is not boring.
    Interesting to see old big head horner being more of a bad loser as every minute passes (not pulling up vettel for bad sport behaviour) & vettel loosing the plot.
    I will admit to admiring vettel mostly for his charm/spirit last season and before, but that has seemed to have left him of late!

    Isn't it funny that when things don't go right for a driver, it is only the older, wiser ones who take a bad result on the chin like a real man?


    Kimi is the only driver with any respect from me.... he seems like the only person I can relate to...
    he loves to drive fast & enjoy a race, but otherwise he won't bite to anything, good or bad! He is happy within himself, that shows. He doesn't need any arms around him! Or a media loving following! A REAL RACER - ICE COOL!

    On the subject of coverage(which I have commented on in the past) I was glad to see things getting smoother from the last race, forum etc..
    I actually watched both channels this time (rather than RTL/BBC)! - I HAVE to see it live!

    NO I don't subscribe! - There is PLENTY of LIVE feeds on the tinternet people!!!
    If that makes the pro-beeb people feel any better for not succumbing to sky, is that you CAN have our cake and eat it with paying for it! - SORRY SUBSCRIBERS!

    But beeb the highlights show was great and I feel the only sore spot is a certain LOUD/SCREECHY commentator!! - that needs a tweaking - TAKE NOTE!
    Otherwise you have nowt to worry about regarding the sky coverage..
    The only thing sky had going for it was that it was live! I felt relaxed enough following it as my ears were used to brundle & crofty but is it me, they don't seem to like each other or is it just martin doesn't... and poor ol' ickle anthony!
    It's like he is on a blind date with that poisoned dwarf and she is only listening to his "boring" chat about cars because there is a cash prize at the end! She has not a clue/interest in the sport and frankly it's so uncomfortable to watch! It just seems the anthony hasn't noticed yet! Poor lad needs to be back with crofty or at least we could have him back at the beeb with coultard!!???

    All interviews by the other candy seem to get equal disdain from all drivers/teams, no doubt due to anyones genuine trust that said person again has a clue and don't get me started on ol' ted - beeb you are so much better off without him.

    Also I have always liked damon hill but he is never going to make anyone tune in and the "sky-jake" is well, trying his best! ... Like I said, sky is just a fill in for when the beeb is not there.
    I NEED it live beeb sorry, but I will still watch the highlights/live bbc shows and I must say that, lee is really doing well along with gary & coultard is much better than brundle, so thumbs up there too!

    Let's just hope that eddie just doesn't spoil it now!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Regarding the radio coverage it was mixed I thought in OZ (only time I listened).
    Certainly not a patch on last year! Why it can't be same commentators as TV I don't know. Might amalgamate a better setup that way?
    Get davidson back and stick him with coultard?!

    Sorry to be off subject on this blog, but where else do we chat on the BEEB?
    there is no 606 now!

  • Comment number 21.

    @12 Button set the fastest lap in Melbourne, and Raikkonen was the fastest in Malaysia. Webber has been up there in the timesheets though, quicker FL than Vettel on Sunday by a couple of tenths, and only 2 hundredths slower in Australia, so he's stepped his game up so far this year. Hopefully it will continue and we see the kind of form which took him so close to the 2010 title.

  • Comment number 22.

    7.At 11:07 27th Mar 2012, Gregsterh wrote:
    Is it just me or is Andrew criticizing Lewis again???
    Ofc. he wants the car to improve! That's the only way to win a championship.

    Don't put your drivers in this light..

    -----------------------------------------------
    You are absolutely right Benson always tries to put Hamilton down any chance he gets. He just does'nt realise we can see through all the distortions he pumps out when he talks about Hamilton.

    Look at the last thing hes says.....

    "Hamilton stepped down from the bottom step of the podium on Sunday to tell the waiting media he needed to find more race pace to capitalise on his strong qualifying form."

    He has clearly has switched Lewis talking about increasing the cars pace to it suddenly being only Lewis needing to find pace.

    Benson conveniently forgets everything that was saying about needing to sacrifice some of the straight line speed for more downforce.

    Benson has fallen over backwards to avoid talking about Buttons self made disaster last race. As I've said before just watch the reverse happen when inevitably Lewis has a bad race this year.

    Benson needs to start reporting in a balanced way without filtering or twisting facts based on his personal like/dislike for a driver and let the fans make up their own mind who they want to support.

  • Comment number 23.

    This season looks great. This time last year, Red Bull and Vettel were a class above the rest. There was no definitive 2nd place man, so no one could really mount a challenge. This year seems very different.
    Its not exactly luck Ferrari won on Sunday. Their car eats through tyres which is brilliant if there is rain, keeps the tyres warmer than everyone else. If Ferrari don't change their car radically, i'd expect them to be fast in other wet races.

    It looks like the winner for this year will be the person who delivers the most consistency, hence Alonso leading at the moment. Hamilton may be able to do it.
    I think a pat on the back for Alonso is well deserved here. He has started towards the mid/back pack, and got through to 5th and 1st. You don't just do that with luck. Hamilton just seems to keep making minor errors, mainly with pit stops.
    The rumours are that Ferrari will have a new car for Barcelona. If Alonso can get a better car, he will be unstoppable. McLaren are there. Red Bull will improve their car. Mercedes will sort out their strategy, and Lotus/Renault will get Kimi warmed up for qualifying and he will be away. As will Grosjean if he ever manages more than 2 laps!

  • Comment number 24.

    Cheers #21

    I hadnt seen the final fastest lap stat, but remembered seeing Webber as fastest lap in both races with no more than 3 or 4 laps to go, so assumed he'd kept it:
    Is it me, or now Vettel isnt the one posting fastest laps (because he is such a great driver and so focused on being the best *cringe*) there seems to be a lack of interest in the commentary?

    Also, well said to #19 about RB/Vettel. I've watched the replay a few times and Vettel moves to his left considerbaly further than Kart moves to his right. Can't believe the FIA will allow Vettel to call a fellow driver an idiot AND cause an avoidable collision through carelessness without punishment. Very lucky. As was I have to say Jenson. I thought him running into the back of the HRT was poor and should have been punished regardless of how little effect it would have had on his race. Punishment must be consistent regardless!

  • Comment number 25.

    Good comments sport.
    Like you I watched Sky and BBC coverage and have to agree about wee Georgie and unfortunately one of my heroes – Damon Hill. The commentary was fine on Sky and my message to Crofty is don’t let Brundle’s reputation get in the way of some jolly banter, or heaven forbid humour. Also I too picked on the fact that most of the drivers appeared to be disdainful of Ms Pinkham - was it the heat? I think less so with Lee McKenzie but are we getting a backlash to too much totty trackside?

  • Comment number 26.

    I think what we might be seeing at RB is not only Webber (who is a great driver) stepping back up to the mark but maybe proof that the last couple of years their car has favoured Vettel. Maybe Webber struggled with the exhaust blown diffuser thingy and now it's gone he's more comfortable in the car.

    Have to agree with 23 if Ferrari can give Alonso even a half decent car he'd be untouchable, never mind Vettel's deterimation to be the best Alonso has it in spades and just downright refuses to give anything but 100% and that's proven by not only last seasons results in what was an inferior car but the two so far this season in what everyone agrees is a dog of a car.

  • Comment number 27.

    #23 - nail on the head about Ferrari in the wet. it is similar to the position Mclaren were in last year where they were harder on tyre wear (although not to the catastrophic effect this ferrari is), and the car came alive in the wet/damp/cold races.

    I'm not sure I agree with your second paragraph though. Yes Alonso has done brilliantly, fair enough, he is a class act, but Hamilton has driven faultlessly apart from the start at the Oz GP. The safety car cost him second place there, and then in KL the pit stops were terrible by the team. They didn't bring him in early enough each time, and then they had an issue in one, and had to hold him for Massa coming through in the other. Before that, he was cruising clear of the rest.

  • Comment number 28.

    "In 2010 they moved forward, but were still only third fastest behind Red Bull and Ferrari"

    - Not so. McLaren finished 59 points ahead of Ferrari in the 2010 Constructors Championship.

  • Comment number 29.

    I think McLaren lost out in Malaysia due to some lousy pit stops. They've got to get their pit stops at the right time and quickly.
    In Australia Lewis lost out on a 2nd finish due to this and in Malaysia, he again lost a place, may be even a win when Alonso left the pits before him in the 2nd pit stop.. Also the call to change into the slicks in Lewis's case was left too late. Has everyone in McLaren forgotten the theory of an 'undercut'!!
    Ferrari maximised their chances by their trackside performance, it's not long before they catch up on performance, until then McLaren has to stop giving away valuable championship points. There current superiority in qualifying may not last for long.

  • Comment number 30.

    #29 - exactly, glad someone else has spotted it! :) Unfortunately, Mclaren have been doing this for the last few years. There have been a number of occasions where Lewis has lost positions due to poor strategy or pit-stops by the team.
    As soon as Ricciardo went purple in the middle sector on his first lap on cold slicks, Lewis should have been in end of that lap. He could have been right in the mix at the end had Mclaren done that. Still, 2 third place finishes is good consistency, and it seems he knows how to improve the Mclarens race pace to go with his blistering qualifying performances.

  • Comment number 31.

    An interesting article to read. Being English, I am very happy to see McLaren at the top of the constructors championship, and I hope it lasts. @9, not sure we'll see a return of a GP in Africa for a very long time, if ever. Now, I'm not going to bash Andrew Benson. I enjoyed the article very much and I think that Mr Anderson is a great addition, as, for a lay man like me, he manages to explain these complex machines in a manner that I can easily relate to and understand. As for the anti Hamilton bias? Not sure I see it now, although it was quite apparent to me that the Beeb favoured Button when they had the exclusive coverage; but let's not forget, Button is a far more personable bloke (and having met him I can attest to the fact that he is a really nice guy). Also, it is true that the McLaren is by far the best looking car on the grid. It's a great season so far, let's not complain about the fact that it's very tight at the top, which means more excitement for the likes of me!

  • Comment number 32.

    Andrew, during winter testing didn't you predict that Red Bull would beat McLaren by over 30seconds?........ It was clear then that McLaren were sandbagging, just hope they keep their noses in front with their development pace. Thankfully this year they're trying to make a good car better, as opposed to previous years of trying to fix a badly born car.

  • Comment number 33.

    McLaren do not have the speed advantage that Brawn had over the field in 2009 or that Red Bull had last season. With two closely matched drivers, McLaren will be eager not to repeat their mistake in 2007 or the mistake Red Bull got away with in 2010 by letting their two drivers get so competitive that they allow another challenger into the title race. The signs are there, Hamilton was very poor at the weekend, seemingly affected by Button's result in Melbourne and similarly, Jenson got overeager the moment he had the advantage over Lewis at the weekend.

    Generally the fastest car at the first race wins the title, but this season it is too close. Alonso said the win in Malaysia changes nothing but that win keeps Ferrari in the title race until they unveil their "new" car in Barcelona. I am not convinced people have missed the fact that McLaren top the constructors. I think fans are aware that McLaren's advantage is not enough to be able to rule Vettel or Alonso out of the championship any time soon. Especially since both McLaren drivers are showing nerves only two races in.

  • Comment number 34.

    #33 - How was Hamilton poor at the wknd?? And what nerves are the Mclaren drivers showing? Button out-breaked himself, it happens in the wet. Lewis' only mistake in 2 rounds of qualifying and races has been his start at Melbourne. Other than that the pair of them have been faultless.

    Obviously an Alonso or Vettel fan-boy. ;-)

  • Comment number 35.

    # 34 - I am sure Martin Whitmarsh is not satisfied with Lewis turning two poles into two third place finishes. You cannot call those drives faultless. Alonso and Perez pulled away from Hamilton, a wet weather specialist like there was no tomorrow with inferior cars.

    Button outbraked himself trying to make a move that was never on when he probably could have nailed the HRT at the end of the straight. That's nerves. It happens, Vettel in Canada last season is another example that springs to mind.

    But it is no coincidence that Vettel and Alonso have managed to get themselves ahead of Hamilton in the two opening races. No coincidence that it was Vettel and Alonso and not, let's say Webber and Massa. Sure, they were both helped by circumstances, but it is their ability as drivers that got them ahead and that is a trend that will probably put one or both into the title race.

    I am not dismissing Hamilton and Button as drivers, but they are not double world champions and in order for either or both to make that grade, they have to prove they are as good as Alonso and Vettel. Neither driver won their title in a straight fight with Alonso and Vettel.

    Hamilton has raw pace, Button is a sound all-rounder, the former has to polish up his racecraft, the latter has to find more speed. With these traits, they are both going to take a lot of points off each other.

  • Comment number 36.

    The good news for this season is the performance of RedBull.
    I couldnt stand another season like last one.

    Now Vettel can show how real big he is. I have my doubts but i think he will show he is very good soon. (And i dont like Vettel to be honest but thats the social part)

    I think that after 2 races LH followed by Button is the favourite driver for the championship.

    And i think FA will be in the fight, prolly late, but he is always around at the end and the other drivers fear him.

  • Comment number 37.

    #35 - absolutely laughable comments!
    Aus - Lewis' start cost him only one place - the only way Vettel got in front was thanks to the safety car! Button was faultless.
    KL - Lewis was cruising until piut stop issues (totally out of Lewis' control) cost him places - twice! Also the decision to not bring lewis in earlier for his stops was clearly hte wrong decision by the TEAM - not lewis. His radio call was clearly played for all to hear about his tyres and wanting to come in, but the team made him stay out. Button didnt try and make a move - he just overshot and there was a car in the way - 9/10 times drivers get away with that and just run wide.
    Alonso and Perez only got in front of Lewis because of the pit stops, and pulled away because their cars worked better in the wet (so technically they had superior cars to lewis in those specific conditions).
    I have never question Alonso's ability as a driver, he is arguably the best driver with Lewis - they are on a par, as proved when they drove the same car at Mclaren.
    Vettel however, has won 2 world championships thanks to having a car at least half a second quicker than anyone else! With a significant driver aid in the blown diffuser/off throttle blowing. This season we are seeing his true standing in the grid - 5th/6th best.
    They dont have to prove they are as good as Alonso as they already have by beating him in a numbe rof even races, as he has beaten them in a number of even races. As previously mentioned, now is the first time Vettel has been on a level playing field and look how he is performing.....btw - I notice you conveniently ignore Vettels completely amateurish driving adn then arrogance regarding the HRT incident?! :-)

  • Comment number 38.

    7. At 11:07 27th Mar 2012, Gregsterh wrote:
    Is it just me or is Andrew criticizing Lewis again???

    ===

    It's just you.

  • Comment number 39.

    A few observations:

    1) Part of the reason for Webber's resurgance in pace against Vettel is the removal of the exhaust blown diffuser (EBD) and the clamp down on advanced engine mapping settings. Webber, like Schumacher, has always been very good at controlling the throttle inputs. Two years ago, Webber was mighty around Spain and Monaco until Red Bull introduced a new engine mapping setting designed to improve the car, Vettel then was suddenly faster again. Vettel is mighty in the high speed corners and keeping the car on line but isn't as good in other departments as Webber. I suspect the same is why Schumacher is much more successful this year as his balancing of the throttle and brake around corners made him supreme. There are other factors but some drivers rely on the engine mappings more and some are better on the throttle than others.

    2) Interesting to note the changes in pace between drivers and teams from a wet to dry track. Webber was better than Vettel on wets and vice versa on inters although Webber had the slight edge on slicks. Alonso was fast in the wet and inters but slowed as the conditions got drier and drier. McLaren were better in the wet than the Red Bull (at least Hamilton was) but the Red Bull were again at least their equal in the dry conditions.

    3) @caxi19: you are aware that Hamilton was third quickest on the circuit for the majority of the race. Yes, quicker than Button, quicker than Vettel, quicker than Raikkonen, quicker than Webber, quicker than everyone else. Perez and Alonso put in fantastic drives and made the conditions work for themselves, Hamilton was hardly shaming himself. You say 'inferior' cars, apart from the fact Massa was also very, very quick at points and so was Kobayashi. Something tells me that the Sauber and Ferrari were in the zone in those conditions. Context is everything my friend, a rally car is better than a f1 car on mud and gravel. Some f1 cars are better in the wet, fairly obvious I thought.

    4) @caxi19: I thought Button beat Vettel in 2009 when the Red Bull was (marginally) the faster car for the majority of the season? Button made more of his equipment when it counted because Vettel had a fantastic chance to win the title that year. Mistakes in Australia, Brazil in qualifying and Monaco cost him very dearly.

    5) Hard to tell how the rest of the season will play out! An interesting one in prospect.

  • Comment number 40.

    12. At 11:32 27th Mar 2012, Nevs_A_Red wrote:
    I beg to differ with the "Mclaren have the outright fastest car". They have marginally the best qualifying package, but with arguably the 2 best drivers (Alonso aside). Mark Webber I believe has set the fastest lap's in both races if I'm not mistaken?? (please correct me if I'm wrong I cant be bothered to look it up).

    ===

    You are wrong. Jenson Button did the fastest lap in Melbourne, and Kimi Raikkonen at Sepang.

  • Comment number 41.

    One last thing, I'm shocked that Karthikeyan got a penalty for the Vettel incident. I think Red Bull are using their influence in the paddock to bully other teams as that was a racing incident and it was the slightest of touches. It's not like Karthikeyan spun Vettel...I think it's a disgraceful precedent to set. Vettel never left poor Karthikeyan room and like the HRT driver implied tried to drive him right to the edge of the track. There has to be some give and some take when approaching backmarkers, give them room and stop expecting them to have to dive completely out of the way and apply the brakes heavily.

  • Comment number 42.

    I wanna see McLaren pulling themselves together now and giving LH the support he needs.
    Treating him lke a #2 is a very costy mistake. He is def. a hotter asset than Button, just look at seasons 2000 - 2008, sorry.

    No more pitstop mistakes. Otherwise very good job from the team though!
    Their drivers attended 7 out their possible 8 Press conference slots so far, Lewis made it every time, that is looking good.
    Alonso is not the most dangerous threat, so looking at the driver' championship, it is a good start. Now Lewis lets go for full points in China, one of his favorite race tracks.

  • Comment number 43.

    28)
    I think it is fair to say that in 2010 the McLaren was slower than the Ferrari in 2010. Alonso had a much better shot at the championship than either Hamilton or Button because he had a quicker car, especially in the second half of the year.
    McLaren finished ahead in the Constructors because they had two drivers who were delivering results, as opposed to Ferrari who had Massa, who had a fairly torrid season, and didn't pick up anywhere near as many points as the McLaren boys. It is a team sport, so if one person doesnt bring in the points, even if you have the faster car, your team will finish lower. For example, if I drove the McLaren right now, I would probably be beaten by both HRT drivers. Does that mean that the HRT is faster? No, they are just much better drivers than I am.

  • Comment number 44.

    #40

    Thanks - bit late - someone already got there first, but cheers anyway. :)
    Although it does prove my point - Mclaren weren't quickest in KL and Button was only marginally quicker than Webber in Aus. Therefore they do not have the "outright fastest car".

    #39 - well said!

  • Comment number 45.

    Well as everyone else seems to be stating the obvious. I reckon the driver with the most points at the end of the season will win and the team with the most points will win the constructors.
    How contentious is that then.

  • Comment number 46.

    Heres hoping that McLaren have set their car up in such a fashion that dry conditions (far more common than wet in a season) are much more favourable.

    It would seem to me to be astute tactics to have a car v.strong in the dry if it sacrificed performance in torrential rain.

  • Comment number 47.

    Someone posted on here "There's no doubt that Hamilton is the faster driver, but Button just seems to get the better support currently."

    What ridiculous comments to make. Firstly Button posted faster laps during both of the first two races than Hamilton (so Hamilton is not the faster driver), and secondly Hamilton has qualified in pole for both races (suggesting he is every bit as supported as Button.

    What is being overlooked here is the style of driving - factoring in tyre wear, fuel usage and car set ups. Button is a smoother driver and therefore benefits from the current regulations over Hamilton's more aggressive style. Should the regulations change it may be Hamilton that is more successful during the race.

  • Comment number 48.

    Alonso & Perez did well but lets not get carried away.

    Their performance was simply down to having superior wet-setup/tyre choice and better pit crews compared to McLaren.

    How many are willing to bet on a similar result in China especially if its dry?

    Jenson had a bad race but he's got loads of experience and will bounce back in China. Providing Lewis' pit crew dont mess up yet again, he may be on for that illusive first win.

  • Comment number 49.

    but they seem to let down their drivers with bad management calls and pit stops.

  • Comment number 50.

    Mclaren have got to make the most of any advantage early in the season, as Jenson did in 2009 and Vettel did last year. But regarding the car it seems to me it is superb in clear air but not so good when following another car, even from the back of the field Jenson didn't seem to overtake too many cars. Has Lewis passed anyone yet?

  • Comment number 51.

    Its Vettle's turn to be 'over competetive' and 'frustrated' this year perhaps? I am a keen Button fan and would like to mention the fact that he more than matched Lewis last year despite obviously being the second driver. Wonder how he will do this year as the 'first' driver in a far better car? Allthough i do not see any evidence of favouratism, McClaren appear to prioritise in a race based on who has the better position.

  • Comment number 52.

    @49 this is not something new, McLaren have had this issue in many races last year.

    The only reason it's not been discussed is because Lewis got the brunt of the pit bungles and the anti-Hamilton BBC were trying to blame every issue on him.

  • Comment number 53.

    As usual F1 is all about the manufacturers. Who has the fastest car? What we've learnt so far this season is this:

    McLaren have the fastest car in normal conditions.
    Red Bull have the second fastest car overall.
    Lotus probably have the third best car.
    Mercedes are next in line mainly because of their clever DRS system giving them an advantage over everyone else in qualifying, to the extent that they will compete with McLaren for poles on the faster circuits.

    Ferrari have fallen pretty much into the midfield. It's difficult to separate their car in normal conditions from the Sauber, Williams and maybe even the Torro Rosso. Force India have fallen back, and the bottom three teams remain where they ended last season.

    The championship table is only looking odd so far because of a) McLaren's continued tactical ineptitude (a problem for at least a decade), b) the weather at KL, and c) the fact that only two of twenty races have been run.

    Unless McLaren continue to make tactical errors (you wouldn't put it passed them) their two drivers should battle out the drivers championship. Red Bull have suffered the most from the rule changes and need to improve to be able to contend with McLaren. Lotus will probably be pleased with third in the constructors and should get podiums. Mercedes have a neat DRS but their overall pace is not much improved relative to last season. They have struggled to match their qualifying pace in both races so far, and will probably continue to do so.

    Ferrari's car is clearly lacking in overall pace, hopefully it's not as bad as alot of people seem to think. With some updates I expect it to be capable (at least in Alonso's hands) of contending for podiums. As for Massa, he's looked worse and worse every season since his accident in Hungary. Sad as that is, Ferrari have no time to be sympathetic, and should replace him with Perez sooner rather than later.

  • Comment number 54.

    Jumping the gun by a couple of months to say McLaren are back on top. Melbourne is a unique track and Malaysia was rain affected so still a bit unknown really. Are McLaren really quickest or just good qualifiers? Is the Ferrari a race car and not a one lap car? If Melbourne does show form, then how close could Mercedes have been without Schumacher's gearbox failure?

    We haven't even gotten to Barcelona yet when the teams all notoriously bring huge updates for their cars. How will that change the pack? Rosberg has said Mercedes understand their tyre issues so could fix them by then. Lotus may make a big leap forward.

    McLaren do look strong but I'm not quite convinced yet they're as dominant as they're made out to be.

  • Comment number 55.

    Slightly different note but Vettel need's to wind his neck in re: back markers! if the WC can't get past a really slow car on his own then there's a problem! he wasn't deliberately obstructing him or weaving around... yes he need's to move but he's not going to throw him self of the track to give Seb "a little bit more room"

  • Comment number 56.

    @53 Re your comment about Massa

    How different would Massa have been had he not had to hand the German Grand Prix in 2010 to Alonso?

    Yes at the time he would only have won the championship through a truly extraordinary set of circumstances, but his morale definitely suffered. And this was the driver that nearly won the title two years earlier

  • Comment number 57.

    Maclaren may well have the fastest car currently - by a small margin, but Martin Whitmarsh has thrown away a lot of points in these 2 races.

    It's common knowledge that button can eek out a lap or 2 more out of a set of tyres than Hamilton, and yet button is getting to pit first at every criticical stop.

    In Aus, this was suspected to be because he was in the lead - which would at least have some logic, but this was proved false in malaysia when button pitted first twice while running behind Hamilton.

    Given the damage this preferential treatment has done to Hamilton, and therefore Maclaren, it's no surprise Hamilton is unhappy.

    In race 1, he could have easily secured 2nd place, and fought for the lead. In race 2, he would have won - contrary to what some might think about his race pace, had he been able to build the buffer 2 early pitstops would have given him.

    I'm confused by this self-harm from Whitmarsh, and saddened for Hamilton, who is easily the fastest driver on the track.

    Just think how many wc titles he would have won if re-fuelling - and therefore lesser reliance on tyre preservation, was still the norm. He may have even been able to overhaul the mighty rb6.

  • Comment number 58.

    #8 - How true of DC, am loving his on air stuff this year. Really surprised as I thought I liked Brundle, but now he's gone I'm actually quite glad. Everything about him was getting a bit tired...

    #9 - I'm sure there will be another African GP soon! It's needed. There have been rumours about South Africa and there's always the wild option of Libya returning to the calendar. Sadly, Mr Ecclestone demands money, which Asia and the Middle East have more of!

  • Comment number 59.

    #1 ferrari35, have to agree with you, Mclarens pit stops have been awful. They really need to up their game in this area if they want to make the most of their current advantage. Also on Sunday they could of pitted Hamilton sooner for his second stop because one of the Williams came in for dry tyres and instead of Mclaren waiting a couple of laps to see how it worked for Williams they waited 5 or 6 laps thus meaning Hamilton got stuck in traffic for his stop which probably cost him the race win.


    Another point is does the Mclaren not prove that there is no need for the ugly stepped nose on most of the other cars as not only is the Mclaren the fastest but also the best looking car on the grid.


    Also Mclaren seem to have went the opposite direction to last year when they had good race pace but lacked a bit in qualifying wereas this year they are ahead in qualifying but seem to not have the pace in the race to stay at the front hence Hamilton going back to 3rd and not being able to catch whoever is in 1st or 2nd position.

  • Comment number 60.

    #51 Davidthedaggg, According to the bbc Hamilton had an awful season last year and Button did well. Now what does that say about Button as Hamilton and him had the same amount of race wins. Button just wasn't willing to take chances during races which meant he was consistently in the points wereas Hamilton was trying to push thus causing him to have some accidents that ended his race. If Hamilton had of just drove around calmly he would of beat Button in the championship no bother.

    Another problem with your comment is the last line. If they pioritise according to race position then how come at the weekend Button was in before Hamilton on both occasions althought Button was behind Hamilton on the track?

  • Comment number 61.

    Re: 59

    Well maybe mcclaren will rue these two "missed" opportunities?
    Like you said last year vettel was not always quickest in race pace as the mcclaren grew to be, but they at least got on pole/front row, stormed ahead on first two laps, gained the cushion, dominated the majority of races because of those starts and thus collected all those winning points!
    I just hope mcclaren don't regret not running away with their "advantage" at this stage??

    I'm not one for really blaming anyone, about anything. Normally like any sport, over a season so many factors, mostly tiny, make such a difference and although british, it is only good entertaining racing I want to see, rather than a "british" winner.

    But I have been quite intrigued to see so many comments today and on other recent blogs about mcclarens leadership/tactics that might have "thrown away" more points than their drivers have "failed" to get over the years!

    Mcclaren have had a far better line up of drivers than any team over the last decade, but maybe have really under achieved despite this fact?
    Anyone care to comment???

  • Comment number 62.

    Re: 60

    I think hamilton is just going to get some "solid" points this season to start with. Take some of the media flack off him and gain some peace and confidence back. Also to do a bit of a jenson and prost the steady points home rather than senna it!
    Once his mojo is back like back in the ol' days I reckon we will see the more attacking/risk taking/exciting lewis we are all used to. Also I think he is still young and learning! So if he can get to europe still at the top or there abouts regards points, without having really gone all out at it like before, then I feel he will be so relaxed about it all that the title will be a lot easier than he thinks to achieve. Personally I reckon he will do it this year.. and NO I'm not one of his TOP fans! Just a hunch I have!

  • Comment number 63.

    I cannot believe people are claiming that the Sauber is faster in wet conditions than the McLaren for any of a variety of reasons. Nobody had tested in the wet. Nobody was setting their cars up for the wet. Nobody knew how their car would react in the wet. We still don't know if a certain car has a signifcant speed advantage over others. Generally, the rain neutralises the cars which is why we have such a thing as "wet weather specialists". Maybe the last time a car was particularly quick in the wet was the Toro Rosso at the Italian GP 2008, late in the season when the team understood the car in the wet and gambled on a wet setup.

    Funny how the driver who most would regard as the best on the grid won the first wet race in what has been a poor car in the dry. Coincidence? Of course not.

  • Comment number 64.

    "Alonso and Perez pulled away from Hamilton, a wet weather specialist like there was no tomorrow with inferior cars."

    Do you actually follow F1?

    Alonso was not pulling away from Hamilton, Hamilton was ~12seconds down on Alonso because he was kept in his pitbox for ages while traffic came through - then lost further time in another pit because his team couldnt pull a piece of selotape off his car. Once he was out and upto speed, he was matching Alonso. The reason Perez was catching Alonso (and therefore pulling away from Hamilton) was because he was on the Hard tyre while Alo/Ham where on the unprefered Medium tyre, also, Vettel behind Hamilton was on the Hard tyre, and like Perez, was quicker than Ham.

    Baffles me that even people who work in this sport dont know the details of what goes on during a race, then spouts crap on widly viewed websites. Shocking.

    Shocking that people are even saying the Mclaren isnt good in the wet... The Mclaren was leading the race at its wettest... only to lost out when it was DRYING... (and even that was because of being onthe wrong tyre)

    Seriously get it together, you 'authors' are embarrasying yourselves.

  • Comment number 65.

    @64 Pleb:
    Actually, Perez was also catching Alonso while they were still on intermediates. Agreed that Hamilton maintained a fairly consistent gap to Alonso, and I wondered why he was unable to catch him. Now I know.

  • Comment number 66.

    I would have kept the headline to this article on ice for a while. Two races in... steady.

  • Comment number 67.

    Ah my other pet hate of the F1 blogs (apart from the Sky thing that overuns everyone at some point), the Hamilton/Button is clearly being favored McClaren over the other one. Okay Hamilton got botched by team errors this week (although not entirrly their fault, the first was partially to blame on Hamilton as well at the one cost him the race not the second where he was comfortably third). Button has had his fair share of mishaps due to team decisions.

    General rule in F1 if your not favoring one driver, the driver ahead in the race gets first choice of when to pit stop if you want to bring them both in at the same time. This stops the one behind "undercutting" the other and taking his position. This week it was said Button wanted to come in before Hamilton who was still edgy about tyre selection so he came in first.

    McClaren aren't favoring either driver, there is no conspiracy, there is no deliberate botching my mechanics. Can we please stop with the crazier by the second conspiracy theories.

    Hamilton fans, Button is much better driver than his poor cars for of his career have suggested. Neither is Hamilton quite as great as you think he is(he's still brilliant though).

    Button fans just because you've entered a team which Hamilton has grown up in does not mean your guy is being overlooked. On some days the misjudgments are just going to be on your side as well.

    Alonso couldn't cope with being equally favored in a team, neither could Prost (Coulthard was never good enough, while good) which is why both struggled there.

  • Comment number 68.

    I note that one one post refers to a "fair" race while others seem to accept the archaic and punative safety car procedure as something to be accepted like the common cold. At present, not only do drivers lose their time advantage by the bunching of the cars behind thesafety car, they can lose position to others making a "free" pit stop under safety car conditions. I did not note all the vehicles which made such pit stops in Oz but looking at the time spacings at the finish I reckon that Vettel would have finished two or more positions lower. His second position was not due to driving skill but to the unfair advantage allowed by the rules.

  • Comment number 69.

    #68 the safety car is necessary evil. While yes it does cause the cars to bunch up and cars can pit to gain an advantage you must

    a) allow the safety car which forces drivers to stay at certain speeds stopping a further accident while marshalls/medical staff are on the track so they can conduct their business as safely and as quickly as possible.

    b) Cars which are still running may require new tyres for safety reason or even a new front wing due to damage sustained before the safety car period. As one car is allowed to do it you have to let them all.

    The only other option is to red flag every time which takes longer to restart the race.

    Sometimes you gain, sometimes you don't as long as no one does a Piquet Jr. it's fine.

  • Comment number 70.

    @Pleb: Hamilton lost 8.5 seconds in the pits. He finished 14.5 seconds behind Alonso, despite them running the same tyres on the final stint on slicks, where the McLaren is said to be considerably faster than the Ferrari, not to mention the fact that the Ferrari is much harder on soft tyres.

    The maths don't add up for those who want to put McLaren's failings down to bad pitstops, strategy or the weather.

  • Comment number 71.

    I could comment about every driver and team but just don't need to. Two races in and as our over-the-pond cousins say, AWESOME.
    Sauber second? I'd've put me house on that one if i'd've known!
    My son loves saying FER-NAN-DOSE E-LONG-SO. No idea why when he's wearing a McLaren hat! Fickle, just like his Dad. ;)

  • Comment number 72.

    @caxi19

    Towards the end of the race Alonso was pushing to keep 1st from a quick approaching Perez (over a 10-15lap period), Hamilton, having had Vettel go out behind, would have likly turned the engine down, conserve the car and 3rd place.

  • Comment number 73.

    Also, the Ferrari being harder on its softer tyres will have likly benefitted the Ferrari in this situation.

  • Comment number 74.

    First of all let me thank all of you for one of the most mature debates I have ever read on a F1 thread on the beeb website. Apart form the odd muppet, everyone here seems to be putting they point across without starting the childish 'my driver is better than your driver' debacle. You are all gentlemen and scholars so hats off to you.

    Been a great start to the season. More than anything, I'm happy that its competitive and no one team seems to be running away with it (hope Mclaren do though!)

    Special mention to Perez for a truly inspired drive. Speedy Gonzalez is certainly a star in the making!

  • Comment number 75.

    It was Alonso that made the difference not the Ferrari, he passed Perez and pulled out with his relentless pace lap after lap in the wet then kept consistent lap times screwing everything out of the dire lego Ferrari while not chewing up his slicks. Massa was the last car home before the lapped Caterham/Marussias, over one and a half minutes behind Alonso, 17s behind the crashing extra pitting Button.

    @57 "saddened for Hamilton, who is easily the fastest driver on the track."
    Sorry but Hamilton was blown away, lap after lap, on fresh and used tyres, by Button in the same car in Oz before and after the safety car. Then he was blown away by Alonso (the fastest driver) and Perez in Malaysia in far inferior cars.

    He is still a good driver, ahead of his teammate in the championship and in the best car now, but it's no use qualifying like Senna if he drives like Patrese in the race.

    In 2010, over the whole season the McLaren was the 2nd fastest car, Ferrari the third. Some races the Ferrari couldn't touch the Mclarens, let alone the Bulls. Again it was Alonso's sheer lap after lap speed in inferior machinery, especially in races like Singapore, that took him so close to the title.

  • Comment number 76.

    i can see the debate about hamilton losing time in the pits and being 14 secs behind alonso. I is my belief that hami was not pushing, but rather just matching his pace to the drivers behind him. HE WANTED THE POINTS PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
    We all know that lewis has pace, what we didnt know was that he is now thinking long term and that finishing on the podium is always a good thing. if he cuts out the dnf's this year he will be wdc. simple. Don't get me wrong on this, all the drivers on the grid fear the pace that lewis has in abundance. this is real development from him trust me on that.

  • Comment number 77.

    Andrew, good article and kudos to Lowe and the McLaren engineers for their car.

    Any chance you could get the F1 Forum on to IPlayer if possible? Good for some mid week F1 viewing.

    It's on the site but not very visible, you have to scroll the interviews section clips, and it surely justifies it's own space on the site or iplayer. I missed the Oz forum, if there was one.

    Also on the iplayer can you request all F1 programmes be tagged so they appear if we type in either F1, Formula 1 or Formula One, as you get different results back and can miss programmes depending on your search like last year.

    Thanks, and good effort to the team following the disgraceful BBC management decisions, especially DC, Gary A, Lee and yourself. I may watch live F1 with RTL 5Live but still enjoy your works.

  • Comment number 78.

    The comments on this blog make me want to bash my head off a brick wall.

    McLaren aren't biased against Hamilton, Benson is not trying to criticise Hamilton at every opportunity, Hamilton did not lose in Malaysia because of pitstops so stop having a go at his pit crew, Vettel was taking the racing line while the HRT cut across onto it- that is why he got a penalty, Button gets more airtime than Hamilton because he's a more likable character, BBC still has the best pre/post race analysis, Sky has the best commentary team, McLaren will dominate qualifying in the near future but won't dominate the races- it will be like Red Bull last year except McLaren have a slightly smaller lead over the rest of the field and the midfield have caught up somewhat, if Mercedes don't sort out their tyre wear problems i'm going to cry, Vettel looks a lot weaker when he can't have 100% confidence in his car so it's his turn to act like a bit of a spoilt child, Kimi is king. ok, I think I straightened everything out for you mentally deluded commenters, sorry to the sensible people.

    I can't believe i'm saying this, but I can't wait for a dry normal race to get a clearer view of what's going on, however I don't thinkwe will see this until Bahrain.... If we got to Bahrain that is...

  • Comment number 79.

    I only see two F1 drivers with the heart to win, Alonso and Räikkönen ( given reliability and raw speed) the rest rely on the gadgets, ie vettle last season. McLaren DO have the best looking car. Webber will never win a championship ( and the only people who think otherwise, can only be Australian). Two races done, one in bad weather, why even bother to speculate, way too early!

    Martin Brundle is the best commentator. Races can often be won or lost in the pitts, it happens! The racing drivers and organisers of today are soft, can't race in the wet, what is that all about??? Has Andrew Benson ever been an F1 racing driver. never heard of him before? Sorry Andrew! i just think your job should be best left to someone who knows what there talking about..you know, good ole experience!

    McLaren to win win win!

  • Comment number 80.

    Nice blog Andrew. Gone seem to the miserable days when McLarren were fined a colosal $100 million US for stealing proprietary Ferrari design ideas. Then they went on to score two successive mediocre years in which they lost both wdc and constructors. I reckon those ideas are probably useless now, considering Ferrari has done badly in the last 3 years.

    So, I would assume McLaren went back on the drawing board the year they got slapped by FIA. They seem to have a competetive car now, which should be a winning car from both Hamilton and Button. And that is impressive. Come to think of it, there is no other team, Red Bull included, that have two massively talented drivers in Hamilton and Button, each of whom can rightfully claim the 2012 WDC. You can probably make a reasonable argument that Red Bull's Vettel and Webber are equal to the task. But I say Webber has always been a side kick to Vettel. And that will not change this year. And he has age disadvantage. His best chance was two years ago when Vettel was erratic. But he blew it towards the end of 2010 to let Vettel win the WDC. Not a fat chance this year for Webber with a crowded front runner bunch.

    As for Hamilton, the difference this year is that he is deliberate, calculating and perhaps precautious. Whilst these are good traits for a winning long term strategy, I fear he could take unnecessarily less risk thereby underminining his reputation as an exciting overtaker and a gutsy driver. Afterall, his idol is Senna. But by putting wining ahead of entertaining performance, he can end up gradually losing that lustre of an exciting driver he earned thourght out his young carreer.

    I reckon the constant FIA and media bashing may have gotten to him. So, he may be trying to become the driver they want him to be. And that is not good. I think he should mix it up, bring in a bit of mischief every now and then when he can afford to, take on some daring risk, overtake oponents and go for come-from-behind-wins.

    Overall, my money is on Hamilton to become 2012 WDC.

    And kudos to McLaren's engineering cahones.

  • Comment number 81.

    #69 Yes, safety considerations should prevail. However, I know of no other sport where a competitors advantage is erased by such considerations (except for matches which are abandoned). In this day and age it should be possible to devise a system where this does not happen. My own view is that the "free" pit stops should carry an automatic time penalty. I see gaining position from these as being similar to cutting corners to overtake.

  • Comment number 82.

    So its a two horse race then? Who was that little known German geezer who came third in the first GP,a complete novice was he? Just lucky to make up the numbers i suppose. Ignore him at your peril. Is there a Polish GP

  • Comment number 83.

    @ Benson

    "Hamilton stepped down from the bottom step of the podium on Sunday to tell the waiting media he needed to find more race pace to capitalise on his strong qualifying form"

    Ha Ha - Lol!!!

    Just can't help yourself......just like the rest of the british F1media.....finding every angle you can to match Lewis's name with negativity - even though he's 2nd in the championship and has been the most consistent so far.

    Jenson Button crashes in KL but still you mention his victory in Australia.

    Sorry Mr Benson - your journalism lacks class and fairness.

  • Comment number 84.

    Ferrari only hit top spot because of the rain!?! Thats hipocritical to say the least... We often forget that that this is a team sport... It is not only down to the car or driver, but how the team manages the car during and tactics of the race. It is easy to use the rain as an excuse. Yes, it did throw spanner into the works, but I'm sure you experts wouldn't be saying that if Mclaren had won. E.g. LAst year, when Button won several races from the back, when rain had affected the race the result was; 'Great drive Jenson'. Alonso, effectively does the same last week, all of a sudden it was down to luck due to the rain... If McLaren is such a great car and Lewis a great driver, Ask your self; Why wasn't He able to catch Alonso? How is it Alonso was able to pull away from Lewis in 3rd? Lewis had long enough to do so. Alonso lead for most of the race! Hmm....

  • Comment number 85.

    lots of criticism about strategy here

    the facts are quite simple ...if you are a leading team you take the percentage line
    if you are behind , you can gamble ...if it comes off ....fantastic ; if it doesn't , you haven't lost much

  • Comment number 86.

    @83

    Just can't help yourself......just like the rest of the british F1media.....finding every angle you can to match Lewis's name with negativity - even though he's 2nd in the championship and has been the most consistent so far.

    ------------------------

    spot on ash!!!! just look at the complete sweeping under the carpet of Jensons performance and Vettels behaviour and watch the complete opposite happen this year when Hamilton has a bad race or expresses his frustration.

    The journalists can twist the truth as much as they like but we can see through it. It makes me think of a quote I think from Churchill....

    "The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is."

  • Comment number 87.

    Come on guys, lets keep it clean... I think we can all agree that unlike the old days it is no longer down to driver skill or guts!! strategy and car management have become far too great a factor. There is no saying who will win it! any one can from the top cars... Current FIA regulations control and dictate how a car is 'managed' rather than 'raced'. It is been great for tech geeks to explore and observe tech evolution. Everytime these bods come up with a fantastic idea to make cars race faster, regulations ban it to prevent lack of over taking, one car dominating the pack and so on: look at redbull; they devised the exhaust blown diffuser, dominated race pace; what does the FIA do? ban it!! come on!! a team or driver can no longer dominate more that 2 seasons, because the FIA will change the rules that will affect the very thing that makes those teams or drivers dominating, dominate... what about the other teams? shouldn't they be enouraged to spend more time developping and catching up, rather that using that time windging and finding excuses to try to get dominant teams penalised or their designs banned?? I wonder...

  • Comment number 88.

    @87 good points. The FIA are worried that if they didn't reign in the super fast cars (banning double/exhaust blown diffusers), or reign in the superfast drivers (Hamilton by making tyre wear an issue if you're aggressive), F1 would revert to the boredom that was the Schumacher years.

  • Comment number 89.

    whatever negative press Mr Hamilton gets he has brought it on himself imo. He is paid more in a season than most people would be paid in a lifetime and fair play to him for that, and to behave like a child thats had its dummy taken away from him in front of millions doing the "best job in the world" is in excusable. Mr Button seems to be able to work the media to his advantage extremely well when LH grows up prehaps he will see where he can do things a little differently

  • Comment number 90.

    @89 your comments could easily be applied to Vettel but you or the BBC have nothing to say about him. Cast your mind back to when the BBC first got the coverage and Lewis gave plenty of interviews to them. Now after all the overly negative press he quite rightly blanks the BBC and only gives them mandatory interviews and I say good on him for that.

    The BBC have to rely on Jenson all the time now if they want an interview.

    I read comments like yours and realise how true that Churchill quote is... "The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is."

  • Comment number 91.

    It's a very sad state of affairs, but as soon as Mr JB joined the team I and I'm sure alot of you realised it was only a matter of time before what we saw last year and what we are witnessing now unfolds!!! Is the ugly side of two Brits in one team, with one being black... never going to work because of bigots and just nasty people.

    Making comments and having a favorite is no promlem as long as It's not based on skin colour.. Lewis always knew this would happen somtime along is career and is well prepared...Well done Dad&family... So to all you horrible people carry on, can't you see what will happen??? Lewis becomes World champion and takes is No 1 elsewhere... Only draw back..I think Whitmarch already knows this and that's a problem...

    If you doubters think I'm mad about all my comments??? Think back a few seasons and just remember how many incidents we thought were incidents?? Were just the opposit..............

  • Comment number 92.

    @91 again some very good points. I don't think all the anti-Hamilton comments are base on bigotry although I'm sure some absolutely are.

    Some people just accept the brainwashing that the media spoon feeds them and can't seem to think for themselves and just repeat almost verbatim sometimes the junk Benson writes.

    Some are quite correctly commenting on issues Lewis has had and that's fair enough.

    Some also are loyal Jenson fans who don't like Lewis just for that reason.

  • Comment number 93.

    @90 My comment could be aimed at almost every child in the world too...but as you quote
    The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end there it is......

  • Comment number 94.

    @93 my point is simple your comment could be aimed at many of the drivers on the grid not just Hamilton and Vettel but for some reason the story is only focussed on if it's Hamilton.

  • Comment number 95.

    You know a lot of lewis fans here remind me of this guy [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    This so called ongoing worldwide conspiracy is only going on in the back of your mind even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would say your just taking the whole conspiracy thing a little too far.

    And god fobid if your british and not a lewis fan as you lot already have us comdemed as goose stepping nazi's with no room left at the bottom of the garden due to all the burnig crosses we keep.
    Not supporting lewis does not make you a racist.

    The only thing andrew is guilty of is pushing you buttons every week like a lot of us we do find the more out landish theorys quite funny:)

    No way andrew can win on this as if he posts about button you lot call him bias if he dont post about lewis hes being biased and if he posts something good about lewis hes just tring to cover up his bias about lewis.

    Now I know some more of the sensitive souls out of you will already hitting thee complant button but for once try to look at things from our point of view I and I sure like many others here dont like being class as racist of bias or even just out to get lewis just because we dont agree with you.

  • Comment number 96.

    @9 "WHY IS AFRICA THE ONLY CONTINENT WITHOUT AN F1 TRACK?"
    Oh my goodess what are you talking about?!
    It might not be suited to F1 racing or heavily populated, but it can't be denied Antractica is a continent also.

    @10 "WHEN WILL RED BULL GET OFF THE PACE?"
    They ARE off the pace.

    @11 "HOPE NO ONE IN F1 HAS FORGOTTEN ROBERT KUBICA?"
    I don't think anyone has forgotten him, but a) it was his own actions that lead to him being injured, and b) you can't expect Renault (let alone anyone else) to sit around and wait for his return, hoping he's still capable.

  • Comment number 97.

    Well that was quick lol good not had a post reported in a while glad to see Im back in the sin bin just proves my point about certan lewis fans:) look forward to the bbc re instating my post:)

  • Comment number 98.

    I am a McClaren fan because it's wholly British with British drivers. the reason I support Button over Hamilton has absolutely nothing to do with racecraft or racial reasons. Quite simply Jenson is from Somerset as am I and I much prefer my seeing a lad from my home county winning than someone else. It's why I support to local sports team other everyone else as well. That all said I'd much rather Hamilton win over a German or an Australian driver.

    #91 please take your comments somewhere else Lewis' race has nothing to do with with his perceived nature by anyone. Or his mechanics making mistakes. I'm not belittling racial issues but accusing everyone of not supporting him being a member of the far right I personally find offensive as do others I'm sure.

  • Comment number 99.

    When I say LH is the fastest driver on the circuit, I mean it in the context of raw speed with everything else being equal.

    What I recognise - especially under the current regs, is that he's not the most consistent race winner - and perhaps may not be even this year - although I do hope so.

    QED - drivers without LH's natural speed, but with other fantastic racing attributes are often better placed to win races (under current regs).

    I have huge respect for Alonso in that he doesn't show his frustration publicly as much as most of us would, and he doesn't let it get to his performances. He has another gear mentally, and we witnessed this in his amazing win in Sepang - which is thoroughly deserved. But this is the same Alonso who was made to look pretty average (by a rookie!) with the same equipment.

    JB is a great driver too - and comes across as a really decent bloke, who most fans can easily relate to. I'm always impressed how he works his strategy, plays to his strengths, and gets the best out of the car. It's been said that he's getting better race pace than LH due to his testing regime focused more on this.

    Kimi is still quality (and subject to self-motivation should be very quick), Vettel is beautiful to watch when the car's working, and his precision can match it; Schuey in my opinion should retire gracefully - just too many fantastic memories are being diluted by his desire to hang on in there.

    LH is hugely disadvantaged by his driving style being so hard on tyres, and I just would like you to ponder the thought that in a different era - with full season testing, re-fueling, unlimited tyres and a much longer tyre life, we would probably be seeing the yellow helmet totally dominate - again.......

  • Comment number 100.

    @99 very good informative post. Benson could learn a huge amount about giving an unbiassed honest assesment of F1 by reading it.

 

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